Local Commentary

Editorial: Debt, Will & Imagination

‘Those who live within their means suffer from a lack of imagination.’ – Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde’s famous one-liner, one among many, is only partly an invitation to irresponsible living. On a more serious note, it cuts to the whole purpose of incurring debt, which is to give play to the opportunities that a good imagination can create.

Debt is only wrong if it is squandered and put to unproductive uses. On the other hand, it is an indispensable component of progress, of economic growth.

The City of Falls Church has what some feel is a far too conservative approach to debt to the point that it has stifled its potential.

For example, for almost 20 years now, it has been acknowledged that a public parking garage near the intersection of Routes 7 and 29 would be key to the future economic development of the City. The need for a garage to make it easy and welcoming for visitors to come and spend money at Falls Church establishments has always been understood as key.

But an unwillingness to match big ideas with big decisions and plans has always undercut the City’s ability to realize this.

This last week, the City squandered yet another opportunity to strike a major blow for the City’s future when it rushed to deploy almost $2 million in the form of a federal grant to a “multi-modal transportation center” at the intersection of S. Washington St. and Hillwood Avenue (see story, Page One of this edition).

Had the City the will to do so, the $2 million could have assisted in the construction of just the kind of downtown garage it needs, on City-owned land right next to the State Theatre, behind the row of N. Washington St. storefronts that include Argia’s Restaurant and Clare and Don’s Beach Shack.

A large, multi-tiered structure there would not only provide ample parking for the State Theatre (even on sold-out Legwarmers nights) that is not there now, but would be an ideal multi-modal link to the East Falls Church Metro Station, where parking will be at a premium when it becomes the transfer point to the new Silver Line, and to the stretch of businesses going south on Washington St. and west on Broad.

But that notion was given the bum’s rush by the Council pressured to make up its mind last Thursday night because it was established that deed covenants that put the property in the City’s hands prohibit it from charging for parking there, and because it would cost the City an extra $6 million to fully build out the parking structure to its potential.

Mind you, this is the same Council that is considering incurring debt for $12 million in renovations to City Hall and for $30-$50 million to construct a new school. But what good is a new school if there are not the economic underpinnings to sustain it?